Distorted version of news story causes confusion


Mar 11, 2001
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Jan. 15, 2003

Hunters beware: Rumors untrue

Deer season has not been extended; bag limits not increased, DNR says

BY BRYAN BRASHER, Columbus Ledger-Enquirer Staff Writer

Georgia has not extended its deer season.

The state hasn't raised its bag limits for deer, and it certainly isn't forming a special task force of hunters to help combat a rising deer population -- no matter what you may have heard.

Those rumors and others have spread like wildfire during the past 72 hours, causing major headaches for officials from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Melissa Cummings, a DNR media relations official, said she isn't sure how the rumors started, but she urges hunters to lend them no credence.

"Georgia's hunting seasons ended as scheduled on Jan. 1 in the Northern Zone and on Jan. 12 in the Southern Zone," Cummings said. "Any information beyond that is just not true."

Cummings said she traced the origin of the rumors back to an article published in the Macon Telegraph on Sunday -- an accurate article about Georgia's rising deer population. The story was picked up by the Associated Press wire service and from there, something went terribly awry.

"We don't know exactly what happened," Cummings said. "All we can figure is that something from that story in the Telegraph must have been misinterpreted somewhere down the line. Whatever happened, it has caused mass confusion."

The distorted version of the story aired on numerous television news broadcasts across the state. It was even picked up by CNN, where it ran frequently in the network's bottom-screen crawl.

The national attention prompted calls from hunters abroad, all champing at the bit to take part in the extended season.

"We've had calls from as far away as Las Vegas and Canada from people saying they wanted to come down here and hunt," Cummings said. "I've talked with media people all over the state and with the program directors at CNN twice trying to head it off."

The confusion marks the second time in three years that Georgia's hunters have been wrongfully led to believe that one of the state's hunting seasons was being extended. In 2000, a bogus press release announcing a special added dove season was circulated and even caused a few hunters to venture into the dove fields illegally.

The origin of the release was never fully determined, but it was believed to be the work of an animal rights group eager to see hunters ticketed for illegal acts. Cummings said she believed that wasn't the case with this week's confusion.

"I really don't think this was a planned issue for any of our offices," she said. "I think it was a misinterpretation that snowballed out of control.

"Hunters just need to keep a check on our Web site. If changes are made, that's where they'll be announced."

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